Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Svenja Krüger. Svenja is a visual artist and founder of Stories Matter, a platform that uses photography to share the stories of people and places. Svenja believes in the power of a story to connect and inspire humanity, challenge perceptions, and impact communities. She's a passionate advocate for responsible storytelling and is particularly drawn to exploring untold stories around death, duality, and the interconnectedness of humanity: the themes that make our stories matter the most.
In this episode, Svenja discusses the meaning she finds in photographing funerals. She also shares her thoughts on complex ethical issues in photography, and reflects on how her art has evolved as a result of her travels around the world.
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
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[00:00:00] Pierre: Good morning, podcast. And welcome to a new episode on the Pierre T. Lambert Show. I am Pierre, your host. And today, we are talking about very deep subject with our guest because we're going to go in some areas that very few people want to talk about. Listen up, my guest today is Svenja Krüger. She is a visual artist and founder of Stories Matter, a platform that uses photography to share the stories of people and places. Svenja believes in the power of a story to connect and inspire humanity, challenge perceptions, and impact communities. She is a passionate advocate for responsible storytelling and is particularly drawn to exploring untold stories around death, duality, and the interconnectedness of humanity—the themes that make our stories matter the most. And this is exactly what we're going to dive right into with Svenja. We're going to be talking about death, photography in death. What does that mean, that experience? Also, her own story, how she got there. And we'll be talking about ethical photography. What does it mean? How does it work? How can you implement it in your own work? What kind of questions should you actually ask yourself? No one is perfect, but there's ways to do things that are more harmonious in life and that can help everyone feel better. So, if you're ready, enjoy this wide-ranging conversation with Svenja, where we're going deep into certain very difficult topics. Svenja, welcome to the podcast.
[00:01:31] Svenja: Hello.
[00:01:33] Pierre: Welcome. I heard it's your first time on a podcast.
[00:01:36] Svenja: It is.
[00:01:38] Pierre: I'm super excited to have you here.
[00:01:40] Svenja: Thank you so much.
[00:01:41] Pierre: Our mutual friend introduced us, Chelsea Yamase. And she was like, “You guys got to get on a podcast together because there's some good stuff to talk about.” And I kind of want to take it with an interesting question right just to get our conversation started, because there's… I feel like there's so many interesting topics we can go and directions. But I was just curious about one thing that you mentioned, which was that, apparently, you imagined and planned out your whole funeral ahead of time. And I was like, “Oh, interesting.” So, can you tell me a little bit about what your funeral looks like? And is there a photographer at your funeral?
[00:02:29] Svenja: Well, if you start with this question, you can expect a very long answer.
[00:02:35] Pierre: Absolutely.
[00:02:37] Svenja: So, first of all, thanks for having me. It's an honor to, to be here and to have this conversation with you and, yeah, to dive right in. So, that is basically my main work, currently, as a photographer, or the main question I am asking myself, like, what role does photography play when it comes to death? And how can we reimagine death visually, but also, the whole experience around it? And that's how I got to funerals and the thought, how can we make this the most beautiful experience it can be for a funeral? So, with that question in mind, obviously, you have to start somewhere. So, that's when I imaginarily planned out my own and just went through other different aspects that make a funeral what it is and what it could look like and how can it be the most honoring, the most dignifying, and the most memorable experience for anyone who comes, because eventually, a funeral is for the people that you leave behind. So, I do this funny thing where I collect notes on people that I met or conversations that I had or my friends or my family after certain moments, things I learned, things I appreciate about them. And I've been doing this for years now. So, I have quite some material there. And I thought how beautiful would it be if, one day, along the way, hopefully, at my funeral, people would come and they would read on their seats or whatever what they meant to me and how their life has impacted mine, and to leave us, us something behind, basically. And so, then I worked backward from there to, like, always be very intentional with conversations and to take those notes. And that's how, like, this whole idea came, basically, but also, the desire to really bring beauty into this dark topic and make it and normalize this conversation around it.
Yeah, there will be a photographer, of course. I have not decided who, but it's probably going to be a good friend of mine who knew me very well and who knows what mattered to me. But yeah, I think that's the, the other thing that's connected to the value of a photo. And I think those visual words or photographs at the end of life, like, the role they play to remember someone, but also for the person itself, too, you had to process what's happening and to… and also, the depth of emotions that you can find at a funeral. I feel like it's even maybe even more emotional than a wedding, potentially. But it's not that heard of to photograph it or it's not that normal. But I have myself photographed funerals, and I think it was one of the most beautiful things when it comes to the depth of the human experience that I have witnessed. Yeah. So (laughs), that is like an attempt to answer that question.
[00:06:05] Pierre: Okay. I want to dig into different areas around that question. Because, first, it's not common, right? Most people are very uncomfortable talking about death. People tell me I speak way too much about dying or death. I'm like, “I mean that's normal. I could have died yesterday, you know.” And then in terms of photography I think there is, like, also a taboo in a way where it's like, maybe, a no-go zone for a lot of people in their mind because if you don't go there verbally with a lot of people… And images, it's even stronger. You know, an image is worth 1,000 words. So, imagine 1,000 taboo words, that's a lot of taboos. How did you end up photographing a funeral? What was your connection to the person? And, and how did that even go? I'm curious because I shot weddings back in the days – what's a funeral like?
[00:06:56] Svenja: Yeah. Before that, I think it makes sense to explain how I ended up with this question, like the connection between photography and death. And to give context, I have to go back way back to my own story. And I have personally experienced at a young age. I was 14 when I lost my father to leukemia. And another very shaping experience was when I lost one of my closest friends to murder, very recently, like three years ago. It's actually going to come up tomorrow, the anniversary of her death. And those were two moments where I found myself in a space of grief and not knowing how to navigate this. And my default is always to create as a photographer. So, that's when I was wondering, like, what is the visual language around death? Like, where is the inspiration in death that is going to help you navigate this? Because that's the power of photography, that's the power that we have as artists, creating art that we can help people navigate darkness. We can bring light into darkness. We can change that narrative for people. And then, the now wife of my brother, she is a nurse in a hospital. And she approached me with something that is called stillborn photography. It's an organization in Germany. I believe that our success in other countries completely ran by volunteers, called Sterninkinder, where your role is to basically go into those situations, always individual tragedies, and create this gift for the parents. And they call it the first and the last photo. And when I read my way through that website, and obviously, was crying because I was so moved by the visuals that I saw and by just this, this work that people do voluntarily, just out of service for a fellow human being who is going through loss, I, I knew I, I needed to do that. And so, I applied and I got accepted. And I started that kind of work and, yeah, really got a whole different understanding to the value that a photograph can have because it's literally the only proof of existence of that human being that the parents have. And that is hopefully going to help them always remember, maybe, the baby that has made them parents, even though they weren't privileged enough to see her grow up. So, then, that taught me a lot about empathy as well. And so, I started thinking like there's so many things photographing death can teach you, and also, so many different aspects to it, like different catches, different backgrounds that could look so different all over the world. So, as I traveled a lot, I started looking out for, what does death look like in this culture? How do they navigate it in their belief systems? And I ended up at this funeral in Ghana by chance, just staying in an Airbnb in this like little village. And we… my friend and me, we were invited to this funeral three days long—the most beautiful funeral I have ever seen. It was full of colors, full of dance, full of celebration. And you could tell that they were celebrating the life. And that really inspired me. And I also photographed that. That was like the first time I kind of photographed a funeral. And then, from that moment on, I became more and more curious about different… also, like festivals around it. So, I went to Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico to capture that and just sit down and listen to people's stories. And I really want to go to Varanasi, that is also like a known place for that. And so, that's my plan for later this year. But then, yeah, I think this is where like it all started. And then now coming full circle to last year… then, obviously, the pandemic hit. So, like death was on everyone's mind. And there was such a need to, I find have this conversation. But maybe, our Western society is not that ready yet or not that resourced yet to actually have that conversation in a… in an inspiring and a helpful way. Like, it's usually very dark, and you were missing a language. And so, then, my last trip pre-pandemic was to South Africa. And I went to this beach, and I saw these huge stone letters that said, “Live on.” And to me, that was such a picture for what the focus in death can be, how that person is living on through our memories, through photos, through just what we've learned from this person, how this person has impacted our lives. And then I started a series last year, a photo series that I'm still working on now, asking people around the world what death means to them. And I have been collecting stories from all over, from anything a nurse who has treated COVID patients to someone who runs a funeral home, someone who runs a hospice, someone who just escaped a plane crash, someone who uses arts to help them make sense of loss, someone who lost their dad. Like, there's so many angles to it, a Maasai warrior in Kenya who has killed a lion. And I feel like death is as universal as birth in the end, because we all are going to die. And so, this is why I'm just like, why, why is this not like more of a, you know, normalized conversation? And so, this is my intention with this photo series, to, to actually come closer to this topic from an inspiring kind of way through human stories. And I dedicated this series to my friend that has been murdered. And so, this is when I started it, like tomorrow a year ago. And I'm planning to go to her grave tomorrow again. And it's just… and like, yeah, and it's like a product of the impact she had on my life because she taught me so much about the value of life and, yeah, just having no regrets. And so, I'm very looking forward to, yeah, to spending, spending that time there tomorrow and just reflecting on where this has taken me by now. So, a long answer to your question.
[00:14:08] Pierre: That’s we love long answers. Long answers means there's that to it. If it's just like yes, no, it's, it's not working. But yeah, all human experience is a lot deeper than a yes, no answer. I have a few points that I'd love to, to dig into. First, we'll link the… in the show notes, we'll link the series that you're talking about, so people can look at it, maybe, while they're listening, so they have a little bit of context. I went through a bunch of stories from people in the, in the series. And it's very… Yeah, it's very impactful and deep. And I was like, “Oh, this is getting deep here,” which is important, which is a conversation, like you said, that in the West, I, I think, is very much put down. I don't know exactly why or how. It probably has to do with culture and religion and how death is perceived versus my in-laws, with family maybe in Asia and Thailand, you know, where it's completely different aspect. But that's why I'm asking you, because you're from, you're from Germany. And is that correct, right?
[00:15:11] Svenja: Yes.
[00:15:12] Pierre: So, you're originally from Germany. So, you do have that similar background as me, where death is, is the taboo. And going back to the stillborn photography, I, I kind of want to ask you, how do the parents feel about it? Are they being asked, can we take a photo first? Or do, do you know what their initial reaction? Because I don't… I literally don't know how I would feel about it as a, as a parent.
[00:15:36] Svenja: Yeah. So, we only go if we are asked to go. So, basically, in the hospital, parents are given the option, as part of the process, like, around birth, that the photographer can come to create those memories for them. So, it's completely up to them if they want that or not. There are also people who don't want that memory because it's too, it's too painful. But they always recommend parents to do it because it represents some kind of closure. And they always give them the option, like, you don't have to look at it right now. You can look at it when you're ready because we print out the photos and send it to them in a letter. So, it's not digital. Like, they don't have to look at it in the moment. But maybe, one day, they're going to be grateful for that. So, it's very respectful. It's black and white. And yeah. But obviously, you are the first person to be there with them after something like this happen. So, it's also… like, it has challenged me as a photographer how to work professionally, but also very empathetic and knowing, knowing what to say or what not to say in situations. And yeah, and I feel also this like spending time around people who experienced loss teaches you so much about empathy. And so, I would say, yeah, that it's like very, very meaningful work that is happening through that organization.
[00:17:20] Pierre: That's, that's, yeah. It's, it's interesting. I love the fact that you were saying that they can look at it or not. The closure, I did not really particularly think about the closure part. I can imagine for people, it's almost like you're in a, in a nightmare, you know, you're in a bad dream. And maybe, that photo can represent, you know what? It wasn't a bad dream. It was life. It happened. It's not something that, you know… Because you might be questioning, did this really happen, when you're in such a negative or like difficult, painful cycle? So it's… Yeah, it's… how difficult is it for you to even be there?
[00:18:00] Svenja: I feel… so, this is the thing, right, with, with our stories, like, I feel we are graced for certain things. And this is what I have experienced with this kind of work. Like, just looking at it from the outside almost feels like impossible to do it, because how would you not break out into tears or… but I feel I know… I very much know why I'm doing it. And, and I also, I think that that's part of, like, creativity and photography. And that gift is actually a gift for us to use with purpose. And that is the, I think, responsibility also that comes with it. Then it's no longer about you, but it's what you can create for, for others. And so, this is always how I, how I feel when I enter these moments. I'm like, “I'm here to, to help them navigate loss. And if my gift can do that, then I'm more than willing to, to, to serve them in the end, yeah.”
[00:19:12] Pierre: Yeah. I imagine the first few times must have been more challenging than after, or, or is it always… I always ask that question for people who work in difficult… even doctors, you know.
[00:19:25] Svenja: Mm-hmm.
[00:19:26] Pierre: I hear every single doctor friend did talk about the first time they lost a patient or this, or…
[00:19:33] Svenja: Yeah.
[00:19:33] Pierre: I don't want to say you normalize, in a way, but…
[00:19:36] Svenja: No, for sure. I mean, obviously, if you're new to something, you have to like figure out how things go. And everyone is different, like death is experienced in so many different ways. So, obviously, also every family has a different approach to that moment, like some are more open than others, some are more closed up. And it's about reading the room and reading the situation. And I think that's what empathy does. And you don't want to spend more time there than necessarily. Like, usually, it's very short. It's like five minutes, like when it comes down to that. And you just go in there with the intention to create something beautiful in death for them. That's always what I think. And, and you also don't have many, like, options, as in they're usually laying in bed, you know. Their, their child is either with them or in a basket next to them. So, then, you, you ask, like, what would they be comfortable with, basically? Like, do they want a family photo? Or do they just want a child, a portrait of the child? So, I leave it completely up to them in that moment to decide. And if they can't, then I just do what I normally do, which is a portrait of the child and a family photo. And, and you work with a lot of depth of field, obviously, with the hands or with the feet.
And we start photographing from around the 14th week on, I think. And the baby is, is a handful the size. So, also, it's like hard, but everything is there. Their, their finger is there. And it's also very, like, if you've never seen that before, that can be very, like, shocking. But it also, again, it gives you such a new appreciation for life and how life is created and how life comes into the world. And it's just, it's overwhelming, really beautiful, that experience. And so, then, those photos, also, they are beautiful. But then, maybe, someone who's not used to that is probably going to look at them and be like, “Hah.” They have this like shock factor. But I think that's, again, why I think it should be normalized, because it is, it is nature. It is very normal. So, yeah.
[00:22:02] Pierre: Yeah, it's true. It, it is normal. It's the most normal thing. Actually, when we were kids, we used to go in Normandy in the, in the house, in someone in the family. And there were photos of dead people. They were taking the photos once they were dead. And it was kids. And it was adults, also. And it freaked the heck out of us as kids. You're in this like old 200-plus-year-old house. It's like gloomy gray outside. And you're looking at a photo book of dead people. And, and I'm not sure what side of my family it was in. But it was a really strange experience as, as, as kids, you know. And you would be like super afraid to go sleep alone. But I remember, you could tell the people were dead on the photo. There, there was no note on it, but I mean it, it didn't take much to be like, yeah, they look asleep, but a little more than asleep, you know.
[00:22:58] Svenja: Yeah.
[00:22:59] Pierre: It looks like they're never waking up. And a part of it, my, my parents were like, “Oh, no, we used to do that a lot back in the days,” like people used to take photos of kind of the last moment, basically, people were visible, let's say, in, in their human form. And I never remembered that until, until I was doing the research. I was like, oh, it's not so uncommon for, at least, in the countryside somewhere, they were doing it like 100 years or like ago. Yeah, it is. And, and I attended… I was at my wife's delivery—I don't know how you call that—when she was pregnant and giving birth. And I remember it was overwhelming. It's very overwhelming, at least the first one. I don't know about the second one. I don't have a second one. It's very overwhelming in emotions. And, and even though it ends up… ended up well, you know, there's highs and lows. And I remember, I was like, wow, is this life, you know? Because, like you said, it's normal. Like, every, every single one of us came through that, you know, in one way or another, or one door or another. And, and it's like, wow, okay, this is a space with like, not magic, but like with a lot of energy in the air and a lot of emotions. And, and being able to capture something is, yeah, that's why, as a photographer, like you said, I can imagine you, you must be able to read a room even more than a wedding, you know, where everyone's kind of happy and drunk. But here, it's like you can't make a bad joke, you know, like, I don't think the bad joke is going to fly.
[00:24:37] Svenja: Yeah. No, that's very true. And also, like, it's a paradox again, right? When like life or death, the two comes together in one moment, in that very moment. Like, you give release to a child that is no longer alive. Like, that messes with you as an end. It's obviously unexplainable, like, why these things happen. And we shall never know on this side of earth why these things happen. But I feel there's so much opportunity to, to place value in people who goes through… probably, it's one of the toughest things to go through, like, to lose a child and don't see it live life, you know. So, I feel like, as photographers, like what a beautiful opportunity to value these people and to like make it a tiny bit more… or less hard. You could say that. So, yeah. So, I'm not sure about like adults as in, like, you know, once they're dead and like taking portraits of them and stuff like that. I have not done that yet. And maybe, also, I wouldn't necessarily do that. I think I'm more about, yeah, like portraying things in a way that it's actually really, like, inspiring and beautiful. And, yeah, that's also the, the purpose of this series, like, to—
[00:26:04] Pierre: That can add value.
[00:26:05] Svenja: Yeah, to portray these different experiences around it, and more for us to learn to appreciate life more, I guess, in the end. And that's the power of it, I think. And yeah, we all know that life is finite in that sense. So, anything that helps to, yeah, to really help us feel more alive and to value life more, that's the kind of work I want to do as a photographer, yeah.
[00:26:35] Pierre: Yeah, because at the end of the day, the, the fact that it's finite as a human form is gift… is the gift of life. It's like—
[00:26:43] Svenja: Yeah.
[00:26:43] Pierre: Hey, look, you got this chance. Like, enjoy it.
[00:26:47] Svenja: Yeah.
[00:26:47] Pierre: It's like, at one point, this is going to be recycled. So, enjoy, enjoy your body right now because it's, it's here and now, and it's working with you, you know.
[00:26:55] Svenja: Exactly.
[00:26:56] Pierre: I remember we were talking about the death of, of… we're talking about stillborn because it's a topic that comes up when you're pregnant. Someone was sharing a philosophy around it. And again, it's, it's beliefs and what you like to believe, but I remember that person said it, and it was like, believing that makes it so much easier if you have to go through it. It was literally that I, I think that person who was sharing, and I can't remember where it came from, but it was that, if a kid is born, basically dead, it comes out dead, it might simply be nature saying, “This body is not ready to, to function properly, and maybe the soul…” And that's why I'm like, I don't know, I kind of like that idea. The soul is like, “I won't take this one, you know. I'll, I'll get in the next one.”
[00:27:44] Svenja: I mean it's probably a bit, how do you call that? Like, no, I guess it, it just messes with, like the value of life, and it's like the inherent value that we have as human beings. And human beings born with a purpose or for a reason. But obviously, everyone believes different about that. And we are free to, to choose the story. We put our faith in that sense. And some people believe in heaven, you know, that the soul goes to heaven. Some people don't believe in heaven. And I guess no one of us is going to know what, what's right or if it was ever about that in the first place, you know, or what's truth. Or, I think, like what matters though is that, whatever helps you, if you go to a loss like that, like that you can find hope. And if, if these images can be a tiny glimpse of hope about and carry the message that this human life mattered, yeah, I think that's…
[00:28:50] Pierre: I agree. And there was this doctor that was sharing. He was not a doctor. And emergency happened, and he had never helped anyone give birth. And that lady has had mental… how do you call that? She actually didn't know she was even pregnant. She had mental problems. And she gave birth in the car. And the kid, he, he was like young, got the kid in his hands. The kid screamed. He never thought that it would happen because he thought the person was in no condition to have a baby, whatsoever. But the baby came out. And the baby died a few weeks after in the hospital. But he said just that one cry of that baby served the purpose for his whole life.
[00:29:38] Svenja: Wow.
[00:29:39] Pierre: And he's like that one cry literally changed the trajectory of his entire life.
[00:29:43] Svenja: Yeah, that's crazy.
[00:29:44] Pierre: And I was, I was like, if that's all… or if that's everything it does, it doesn't have to live 56 years to have an impact, you know.
[00:29:54] Svenja: Yeah, that is very true, that life is not measured in quantity, but in, you know, the, yeah, that, that you can have as much impact in a moment that someone can have over time. And time doesn't wait for anyone. And that also teaches you the value of time again. And yeah, I think there's just so many, like, deep topics around death, which is why I'm very drawn to it, like, to, to explore that and to learn about it and to, yeah, to really, really have a conversation around it, like we are having now, which I'm super grateful for (laughs).
[00:30:33] Pierre: How do people react to your work when you share about it? And, and how do you present it? That part I'm, I'm kind of curious. Yeah, like, what's the conversation with, with new people? And are they taking it like, “Oh, that's interesting,” or are they backing off a little bit?
[00:30:50] Svenja: I usually find people are really inspired by it, just because it is not common in our age, let's say, or also in this industry. You have to do this kind of work or to have, like, even imagination around it in that sense because, it's not what comes to your mind when you think about imagination. It's usually dreams and visions and all the things you can achieve while you are alive. Like, why would you spend your time thinking about death? So, I found, though, that also, when it comes to people's stories, just like how I got there in the first place, like just being so intrigued by that every human has its own unique story and that things happen to you in life and you can't control what happens to you, but you can, you can use that for… you know, like, it can become your message, basically. And you can use that to, to help teach you lessons. And if you're willing to learn those lessons, and then eventually, you get to help others with your story. You get to inspire others with your story. And every single one of us has that story. And, and I find that around dark topics, like death and loss and grief, is where the deepest lessons I learned. And I used to start photography capturing weddings and—
[00:32:35] Pierre: I was, I was about to ask you.
[00:32:26] Svenja: Yeah, and like brands and a lot of joyful stories where joy was the focus. And I guess, also, that's what you would love to focus on, right? Because it's, it's the easy things. It's the enjoyable things in life. But who is capturing that other side of life, which is as real and as, yeah, as present but not present defined by, you know, you see it on social media or whatever? But like it's present like when it comes to like real life and stuff. And so, this is where, like, I switched and I started asking different questions to the people I encountered. And because I feel, with those kinds of questions, you get deep much quicker. And you, you can take so much more away from the conversation if you don't spend so much time on the surface. But if you like dive right in, (laughs) and that's how I usually end up telling people about this, because like that's the kind of person I am. Like, I, literally, I go deep right away. And I find that, yeah, that it's, it's actually inspiring people and even making them think which, I think, is again the power of art, the power of photography, that it can start conversations around the table and it can change perceptions about topics, and, and it brings humanity closer together in the end, yeah.
[00:33:58] Pierre: That's really cool. I, I love that because, actually, with Chelsea, we're in Polynesia, it was not this year, last year, or two years ago. And we were having dinner with friends, and one of them asked what do we think about death, you know. And what do you think happens after? And the whole… like, it went really deep very quickly. It was pretty amazing. And then I took that, and did it in my family at a, at a dinner.
[00:34:27] Svenja: That's beautiful.
[00:34:29] Pierre: And that went really deep very fast.
[00:34:30] Svenja: Yeah, it's true.
[00:34:31] Pierre: And people still remember it. We all remember these conversations.
[00:34:33] Svenja: Yeah, because it matters. And I think this is like… and by the way, same thing happened to Chelsea and me, when we met, we usually went straight in. And it's just you learn so much about the person on such a deeper and more meaningful level. And, and to me it's always been about going deeper with this message of Stories Matter. Like, what does that actually mean? Like… and it has so many layers. And where it really matters is at the end of life, it's what story have you created with your life? Like, what story are you going to be remembered for? What's your legacy? That's why I love going out to cemeteries and read like about people's stories. And again, they are also like imagine you could press a button and you could listen to the story of that person, you know, on a… with a tomb.
[00:35:26] Pierre: Coming soon.
[00:35:27] Svenja: Coming soon (laughs).
[00:35:30] Pierre: Or the metaverse.
[00:35:31] Svenja: The metaverse (laughs).
[00:35:31] Pierre: Please put your Oculus glasses and, and watch his last message.
[00:35:37] Svenja: Yeah, who knows? I mean that's just wild to think about what's going to come in the metaverse. But I guess, like, the essence is still the same, as in that every story matters, because it's unique and you've been giving the story for a reason. And, like, yeah, if we could, if we could, just share more stories, like, listen to each other's stories more intentionally, I think that's like one of the ways how to, yeah, create a better world in the end or create a better future, because you create more understanding and more empathy. And it also helps the person itself to, to make their peace with dying, if a person has time. Like, sometimes you just don't have time because you're just, you know, like put out of life, which is so tragic, like all the time. And… but if you do have time, like, I read about this in a scientific paper. It's called Narrative Palliative Care, like how the use of story, the formed story, like, helps that person, like, die the most… Yeah, like I always say, like, we need to have people not live longer, but like as Silicon Valley is so preoccupied in how we can live longer, but how to die better. We should put our, you know, like, design skills into designing a better experience around death. And yeah, that's like coming full circle to, then if you, if you know that you know that your story matters and then mattered, you can, you can die in peace, I believe. And that's probably the most valuing and dignifying experience we can create for each other on this earth, yeah.
[00:37:34] Pierre: Yeah, it's, it's beautiful. It's… well, I love that concept of having photographers at funerals. First of all, you don't do it for the dead person because that person is gone, right? Or dead persons around, whatever you want to, to believe and feel. But to people who were there. It's nice to see, not just a photo of one day we're like 20 and got married, but also like, “Hey, look we're 65. We've lived that much. And we're back with our friends now and our family,” because that's a moment of gathering. So, if anyone's interested in starting a business around funeral photography, honestly, there's, like you said, stories matter. And, and it is such a perfect moment to bring that and also share another aspect, capture a different aspect of, of life. It's, it's beautiful. To push it a little bit further, I was telling friends. I'm like, we should have wedding photography and divorce photography, because if they're not hating each other too much or like, or like hitting themselves during divorce, I was talking, I'm like, it's a great moment for closure because you started as two individuals that grew in different direction, then ended up divorcing. But you got to own that part, too, you know. And if you have that openness enough, literally, I would hire a photographer if I had to go through that, I think, just to honor those different paths that could not stay together, but grow in different directions. And most people are like, “This is dumb. This is no one will ever hire you.”
[00:39:07] Svenja: I think, I think it depends on how the divorce goes about, right?
[00:39:10] Pierre: Of course. If they're, if they're throwing in each other's tongue—
[00:39:11] Svenja: If they are not talking anymore, there is no point. But obviously, if it's done in a mature way, and in a respectful way, there is, like, obviously there wouldn't be like a, an issue to, to, yeah, just to be on a photo together or whatever to capture the emotion of remembrance or nostalgia, or whatever it's going to be then. But yeah, that's a very interesting question. I've never thought about this.
[00:39:43] Pierre: And think about, think about the kids now, right? Because their parents were together, and suddenly they split up. But I don't think there is ever a very clear cutline, you know, or like rite of passage. Like you have for a wedding, you have a rite of passage. But kids end up living with the parents, but there is not that, like, this is the moment. Like, everyone goes their own way, and we respect it, you know. Obviously, if they're hating each other and they're in court, it's totally different. But if, like you said, if it's in a mature way, I'm like, I'm like, “Dude, I'm starting this divorce photography business (laughs).”
[00:40:19] Svenja: I mean, yeah, I think this is so, like, individually. But it's also hard if you think about the kids being involved and how old are the kids and how equipped are they and what tools do they have to navigate this, right, something they are not responsible for, but have to, like, live with the consequences, basically. So, I find that's that's very nuanced, and they are in complex, like…
[00:40:48] Pierre: For sure.
[00:40:49] Svenja: Yeah.
[00:40:50] Pierre: Absolutely. We'll see, we'll see what happens. Maybe I'll Google and see if it exists. I'm sure someone somewhere has, has, has done it before. Okay, how do you approach storytelling? I'm curious, how do you… there is so much in the life of a person. What do you decide is, is the story? Or who decides? And how do you approach it? Because… let's talk about your story. It could be… We could focus on your zero to five, five to 12, or take a bigger arc, or how… what do you think is a good way to grasp a story?
[00:41:28] Svenja: That's such a good question, I love it. I feel like you have different narratives, depending on who asks you, depending on the context, yeah, depending on the theme. Like, I have a story around death, but I also have a story around learning how to see and what that journey looks like with photography. But I also have a story around exploring the world and different cultures. And so, I guess it always… or in a job interview, I have a different story, you know. It always depends on how you can, like, think about that person in front of you and what would be beneficial for them, what could help them, what could inspire them, maybe, where are they at in their moment of life and their situations. There's a lot of questions about, how did you get where you are now? Or how did you start photography? And then, I guess, you just learn how to then connect those specific kinds of dots in your response. And same goes for me. If I go and ask people for their stories, then often, the question is, like, what part? Like, you know, where should I start? And then, and then you give them an idea or an example. Or, usually, you pick a theme, and then, obviously, like death is a very, like, polarizing topic, right? But again, also, very interesting because everyone has some sort of connection to it, which you, maybe, also wouldn't assume in the first place. But like based on experience now and having asked this question so many times, people usually can always tell you something. Then, a conversation that I find very important and I'm very passionate about is how to tell stories, how to do that in a responsible way and an ethical way, especially, when traveling, especially in this industry where we have the privilege to, to move and to see different countries, experience different countries? I find, with that privilege comes a huge responsibility, especially if you're white and from the Western world, to, to really learn about that and to ask yourself the hard questions, like, why do you actually travel? Like, what is your intention? And we owe that to the people we encounter along the journey, and especially, because of history and everything that has like… even if you think about your medium, like photography or camera has a history, has a… not a positive history, unfortunately, like it has been used to oppress people. And do we know that? Do we, when we pick up a camera, think about that? Like, and that's again story. It's context. Like, that's why I think story is so intriguing, because everything is story. And like I always love to say, like, we are born into stories, raised in stories, and live and die in stories. But it's like it's caring about the context of things. And I think that's how we also can respect people the most, if we have done our research, if we have learned about their culture, if we go to a different culture, and then we can just really sit down and listen to them and not have a preconceived idea of things, and hopefully, like, be as free of bias as you can be if you are self-aware and if you are conscious about what you're doing. And then it's like, what is your story to tell and what is not? And I think that's a, that's a life-long lesson to figure that out. And I myself have gone wrong as, you know, I have had to learn the hard way. But I'm so open and willing to, to get better at that, because again, I think we, we owe this to our human story and to everyone who's not been treated, or has been treated with injustice in, in the past. And that's the only way, the only path to reconciliation. And that's like doing our part and playing our part and dismantling stereotypes.
[00:45:56] Pierre: Speaking of stereotypes, how… let, let's say, what, what would be… and I'm not going to say good or bad because I think that's way too black and white, and life is not about good and bad. It's, it's a lot deeper than that. What… how do you define something that would be harmonious and something that could potentially, how do you call that, continues certain stereotypes or, or certain aspects? How do you approach it, even for… well, if you have an example, that would be great, maybe of a story that could be shared in one angle? But if you think about it in a more harmonious and ethical way could be shared differently. Would you, would you have an example?
[00:46:38] Svenja: Yeah, I think language is a very important thing there, like, what is the language we use around certain experiences? So, for example, I lived with a tribe for a certain amount of days, or did you actually? Or did you just witness a tiny fragment of their lives and you actually don't know them and you have no authority to… on however their story is told? You know, like, things like that. Or they handed me so much or they taught me so much, like, this like superiority, and this like power imbalance, I think is really… that's really important that we pay attention to that. And then when it comes to photography, there are also so many aspects, like, how do you portray a person like in, let's say, a different culture when you travel? Like, do you have their informed consent? Do they fully know where you want to share this photo? Like, have you educated them on that? Then, also, how do you take that portrait? Is it in a dignifying and in a humanizing way? Because there's the whole history of dehumanizing people through photography that is so, so awful. There is a way that you can take a portrait that it's actually, like empowering. So, if you go from like a lower angle, for example, and you actually make them look so, like, what's the word for it? I can't think of it.
[00:48:18] Pierre: Stronger?
[00:48:19] Svenja: Yeah, no, like.
[00:48:21] Pierre: Empowered?
[00:48:22] Svenja: That they… yeah, that they can be proud of themselves, you know, when they see it.
[00:48:24] Pierre: Oh, yeah.
[00:48:25] Svenja: And I love to… like I always do that. I show them the photo that I took. And, and I ask them what they think. And, and if they don't like it, I delete it, you know. Like, it's, it's not me taking their—
[00:48:36] Pierre: Well, thank you for saying that.
[00:48:37] Svenja: It's ironic, right?
[00:48:39] Pierre: Thank you. Thank you.
[00:48:40] Svenja: Because you take a photo.
[00:48:41] Pierre: Yes.
[00:48:41] Svenja: And that is actually the other thing I was going to talk about, because the whole language around photography is so colonized—to capture, to shoot. Like, wait, do we think about this stuff? Like, are we aware of this, you know, to like take a portrait, like take it away from them? And I still use “capture” and “take” because it's so normalized in our language. But if we would become more intentional and if more people would do it, then we could change that narrative, you know, and use, use dignifying language, like “to photograph” the person, rather than, yeah, like… and like I think those are the things that I'm… I want to be really mindful of when I, when I travel and when I tell stories. And that is always more important to me than, let's say there's a really beautiful scene or whatever, but I don't have the consent. Then it's not my photo to take or my photo to photograph. And yeah, like I would love to see this change in this industry, like that more people rally together, especially white photographers, to create change and to, yeah, to make an effort to, to really change something about this, because it's only ever going to change if we start doing it, so, yeah.
[00:50:08] Pierre: That, that's interesting. It reminds me of, I don't know if you know, but Photography Without Borders.
[00:50:12] Svenja: Yeah, I do.
[00:50:12] Pierre: Yeah, Photographer Without Borders.
[00:50:13] Svenja: Mm-hmm.
[00:50:14] Pierre: Yeah. So, I've had… I actually had Danielle on the podcast, the founder.
[00:50:20] Svenja: Amazing, yeah.
[00:50:21] Pierre: And we've been in, in long, very long… It's like a debateful conversations together, and real life also. And I love it because she makes me think differently, you know.
[00:50:29] Svenja: Yeah.
[00:50:32] Pierre: And stuff… there's a lot of stuff, stuff I would have never thought about before.
[00:50:36] Svenja: Very true.
[00:50:36] Pierre: But do you have an example of when you're in a situation, maybe, and the way you were making photographs failed off? And, and I love the approach of showing photos. And apparently, it's… I thought everyone was doing it. Apparently, not, which just sounds crazy. Like, you make a photo. Why don't you show it? You know, like I was in Tanzania. And sometimes, I felt a little awkward. But I was like, “Look at what we just captured.” I was very excited, “Look at the photo. Like, you look so… what do you think?” And people are like, “Wow,” you know. And when you have a positive response, I'm like, “Okay, that's the good side, you know.” But yeah, what situation, how have you navigated?
[00:51:21] Svenja: I think you just… if you go to a place and you listen to people and to the existing narratives, that's how you like start connecting the dots, for example. So, in Ghana, when I was in Ghana, just walking around the markets, like having my camera out but not taking any photos, like people were almost hostile towards the camera. And I just stopped, and I just asked someone. And I was like, “I just, you know, want to, want to learn, I want to understand why you think the way you think.” And then you hear stories that their portrait has been used by NGOs on the site billboards in context of a poverty narrative, you know, trying to get donors to donate and stuff. And then you start to understand the damage that has been done over decades, over centuries, probably. And you know, like this perception of NGO is like doing, doing the right thing, doing the good thing, but like it can also be hidden behind good, sometimes, you know. So, you have to like dig deeper and really like challenge, challenge someone wanting to do good or having good intentions. Like, that's not enough, sometimes. Like, we, we do need to educate ourselves And so, then, after that conversation, I just packed my camera. Like, I didn't even had it out anymore because I just think that is going to contribute to that story, and people don't feel safe. And that's the worst, if you think about it. And so, also learning like when… yeah, when… again, like what is your story to tell? What is not? When is a good moment to photograph? When is not? And you… also on social media, you find so many examples, I guess, where it's not been done in a dignifying way. And this is how you know that it's still a problem.
[00:53:19] Pierre: Yeah.
[00:53:20] Svenja: Yeah, so…
[00:53:21] Pierre: It's, it's a tough conversation.
[00:53:22] Svenja: Yeah.
[00:53:23] Pierre: People ask me all the time, are you okay to share photos of stranger you took?
[00:53:28] Svenja: Yeah.
[00:53:29] Pierre: And sometimes I am, sometimes I'm not. And it's really hard for me to draw a line because I love street photography, for example, you know. But sometimes, because of the art, you can go ask someone. You have to take the photo. And then I go talk to people, you know. But it's like, “Can you not share it?” Well, it depends, you know. Am I creating a NFT for something and sharing? That's… I don't think that's really cool. If it's shown as a part of a body or work of an artist, maybe. But if you're really putting a focus on one specific person, that feels… I always ask myself how would I feel if I were in that… the other end, you know.
[00:54:11] Svenja: Yeah, definitely. That's important, yeah. This conversation was actually… the Deep Life. I don't know if you follow them on Instagram. They have really interesting conversations, discussions, questions. And one was around this, like the other day, around street photography and what is… what are like your rights, or what is like acceptable and what is not? And one was like, yeah, are you like allowed to take photos of people in the street? But then, are you allowed to share that work? And then the next question was, are you allowed to make profit from that work? And that's where it switched, you know. Like, for the people answering, they were like, “No, I don't think that's okay.” And I think, again, here… Oh, another thing, with NFTs now, I love that you can split the profit, that you can actually collaborate. And I think that is such a good way forward how to, you know, another person in the process whose portrait you maybe took to, to have them benefit from it, basically. So, you're, you're no longer taking their story, but they become part of the story, which I think is so beautiful, and—
[00:05:24] Pierre: Absolutely. I'm, I'm so happy you mentioned that.
[00:55:27] Svenja: And that's actually a NFT collection I'm going to work on now or I am working on how to connect the people or the purpose of what they stand for to an organization, and then split the NFT between the artist and the person or the organization that person is supporting with their story. And I just came back from Buenos Aires on my most recent trip where I used to live in Argentina for a year 10 years ago. And I found this painter on the street. And he was drawing… he was painting with his mouth, which immediately, like, caught my attention. I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I've never seen that before.” And when I approached him closer, I saw that his, his hands and his feet are crippled, basically. So, he, he wouldn't be able to paint with his hands. So, I asked him for his story, what I usually do. And we got talking. And it was the most moving… one of the most moving stories I've ever heard. And he had on his painting thing written the words, “Todo es posible,” which means everything is possible. And that is literally what has changed his life. Like, he was close to suicide because of his condition. And then he found faith, which has completely transformed his life and made him believe that anything is possible if you believe. And that's when he picked up this paintbrush and started painting, started learning how to paint with his mouth, and now draws the most beautiful paintings in that neighborhood. So, when I now, 10 years later, went back there, I actually went to find him because I didn't know if he was still there, if he was still doing what he was doing back then. And I took my friend, a videographer with me, because I, I was saying, like, if I were to find him, I have to capture his story on video because it's one of the most inspiring stories I've ever come across. And I went back to the space, and he wasn't there, but… and he hadn't moved because I also knew where he lived. But there was his phone number on… still on the wall. So, I called the phone number. And long story short, I ended up meeting him. He obviously didn't remember me, but I was like, “You changed my life. Like, I just want to, you know, tell you about it.” And ended up meeting, he ended up agreeing. We obviously asked him first if he would be fine with us telling his story, sharing his story. And he even has built himself a construction so he can drive. So, he went with us on like a car ride. And it was like the most insane day. We spent the whole day with him and just capturing who he was, like his… like authentic, like joyful kind personality. And, and at the end of the day, he told me about this association that exists globally for painters without hands and feet. And I was like, “Oh, my gosh, imagine if we, with an NFT of his portrait, that I took, could support this organization.” And he was obviously super excited for it. So, that's going to be one of the NFTs. And I'm very excited also, too, like work on this video, and like eventually release it. And I think, again, here you have the power of a story. And he probably would have never believed that his story would have such an impact on someone else's life. And that's, yeah, that's why I do what I do (laughs).
[00:59:00] Pierre: That's, that's awesome. And it's, it's crazy that it's like 10 years later—
[00:59:06] Svenja: Yeah.
[00:59:07] Pierre: … and that you probably changed this guy's life just by going back and sharing that, he changed your life. You know, it's like, it's fun and so cool, where you're like, “Oh shit, I did have an impact on that random person from Germany 10 years ago.”
[00:59:22] Svenja: Yeah.
[00:59:23] Pierre: And now she's like doing all that storytelling. That's beautiful. Let's go technical for a second. How… Okay, because I've had the same sentiment regarding the portraits and stuff. I, I have my… through my work, I, I share how I shoot what I shoot. And I cannot deny that I profit from sharing my work. You know, it's, it's impossible to say that, as an artist, you profit from sharing your work somehow. Indirectly at, at some point, you will profit of creating art. So, I can't deny and be like, “No, I'm like perfect.” And it's not even perfect. Actually, it's more like I never get any money and I only eat likes for breakfast and nothing else. No, everyone needs that currency that we trade for food and for other things. Now, for NFTs, I get really excited. So, I did an NFT and I did profit-sharing with Chelsea, right. We, when we're in French Polynesia, one of the NFT, it's a portrait of her with a mountain. And it's awesome. We can put a percentage to her directly for whoever collects and resells. Now, there's a lot of situation when I travel, I'm like, how the heck can I share profits with you? You, you probably are not even really connected online. Maybe you just have an email and that's it. How the heck do I get you to even grasp your head around an NFT and Web3, you know? Like, do you have a MetaMask? What's your wallet address (laughs)? And they're like, “What,” you know.
[01:00:52] Svenja: Yeah.
[01:00:53] Pierre: So, have you thought about that? What, what do you… let's problem-solve for a second.
[01:00:57] Svenja: I mean—
[01:00:58] Pierre: How do we do this?
[01:01:00] Svenja: I definitely don't have all the answer. I just answer. I just have some thoughts around it, I would say. So, even before NFTs, I think the least you can do is get that photo to them somehow, right?
[01:01:14] Pierre: The best feeling for everyone.
[01:01:15] Svenja: Yeah.
[01:01:16] Pierre: That's crazy.
[01:01:18] Svenja: And I had just recently, one of my closest friends gave me a printer for my birthday where you can literally… Don't have you have one, too? You can print the portrait.
[01:01:29] Pierre: I think I left it with my wife and friends. Yes, a small one, right?
[01:01:33] Svenja: Print the portrait right away. Exactly.
[01:01:35] Pierre: Yes.
[01:01:36] Svenja: I'm like, where has this been the last 10 years of my life? Like, as in there are ways now that make it so easy to, to actually, like to give back to the person whose photo you are, you are taking right in front of you. So, it's 100% worth investing into that when it comes… if you want to be a responsible storyteller, I would say. You know, the printer is obviously the easiest way. Then, next, if you don't have a printer, is, yeah, find a way, find an email. Even if it's like going to… that's obviously extreme. But going back to the phrase, “10 years later,” and giving them their printed out photo, what I just did with a painter, for example, you know. Like, obviously, that's like not always possible. But I think it's, it's the intention that you try your best. You try every possible way, how to give them that photo. Some, some might be like, “I don't need it.” Like, I don't want it. That's also fine, I think. But I would say the, the, the usual human would love to, you know, have that as well, exactly.
[01:02:44] Pierre: Yeah, I haven't… I have not received a guy who is like, “No, thank you.”
[01:02:49] Svenja: Exactly, you know. So, so, I guess, it's like trying as hard as possible. And you can become very creative with it, very innovative with it. If you're staying in a, in a city for, for a bit, you know, maybe you can print it there in a print shop. And, also, give them like monetary… how do you say that? Yeah, like, give them something, especially if you know you're going to make profit of it. Then I think it's like, it's like almost non-negotiable. As in if you know you're going to like sell something, then you, you very much need to… what is the word for it? How to say this? But yeah, I can't think of it. I need to appreciate them financially. And yeah, and I think now the NFT space, obviously, it's like it's all new and the infrastructure is better in, in some places than in others. But also, I think what's coming to life are these like collectives and other people who do have access, like doing it for someone who doesn't have access. So, I think there are also going to be ways to explore that further. And you can always, also, like if you collect the money here, you can find a way to send it to them. There is like the classic money sending avenues, right? So, I feel like, yeah, again, like everything, it's more about your intention to actually really wanting to honor that person in the process that you took a portrait off and just finding a way. And if not, then you at least tried really hard, yeah.
[01:04:29] Pierre: Yeah, yeah, I think the intention is, is definitely the first step.
[01:04:29] Svenja: Yeah.
[01:04:30] Pierre: Yeah, I was considering, because we have some great portraits. And I was like, I would love to do an NFT series with some portraits, you know. Even, even one of our guide in French Polynesia in the Marquesas with Chelsea. And, and I was like, “I don't have his wallet address,” (laughs) you know. And it's like, yeah, it's like… yes first, I don't even know… first, I would need his consent first to even like start—like being like, “Hey, let's sell it as an NFT,” you know. It's… that's a whole different discussion. Then I put your photo that I took. And you know I took it. And you know I do videos in my video, you know. But now, I'm selling your portraits for people to put on their wall. That's, that's different, you know.
[01:05:17] Svenja: Yeah, that definitely needs to be the first step, yeah.
[01:05:19] Pierre: So, they need to, to, to, to wrap their head. So, I guess you can build a project around it. And, and I even thought, why don't we create like a wallet or like you create a different wallet every time, but you make it so available so that people can come and claim their wallet. Meaning, it's almost like, “Hey, we're creating this. It's okay if you don't understand it now. Maybe we'll not… never sell anything. But the day you want it, here is how to access it.” And basically, making that first step for people, and then, whatever, if it works or if it doesn't, people can come and be like, “Okay, this was me. Hey, I'm on the photo.” And, and here's, here's your wallet address and, and here's what's behind it.
[01:06:03] Svenja: I love that. Do it.
[01:06:04] Pierre: So anyway, we're throwing ideas. We're throwing ideas around. And, and we'll have…
[01:06:10] Svenja: No, I think, again, with everything, it needs like a human in that world to think about these things, you know, to think about people first, not profit first. And like same with this. Someone who, who is like, no, this can be more beautiful. Like, like someone who cares about people who are dying, first of all, you know. It's like, that's where it started, someone who cares about people who don't have access to wallets benefiting off NFTs as well. And again, it's like developed here in the Western world. And what do we do about people who don't have access to it, yet, you know? How are we going to work on creating access for them? And I guess that's where like social businesses are important and… But yeah, photographers can play their part, too, or people with influence people, with privilege, like you and me. Like, you know, it's, it's just, it just takes someone who has the passion and who has the heart. And that's how, how these things are born. And yeah, it's, it matters (laughs).
[01:07:14] Pierre: It does. It does. I remember Sean Tucker. You can check him out. He's a, he's a nice photographer. He talks a lot about philosophy of taking a photography, actually the philosophy. And he has a YouTube channel. And he was sharing… I think we were talking, I don't think we recorded that. But he actually spent some time in, in the media, in a village with people, and literally stayed there for a very long time. And he's like, “We would take photos, and then we would print it with them.” And he's like, literally, they like took the printers and everything. I think they took the printers or he went back to London, printed everything, and went back. And then they did the whole project together, which just printing on small, it changes people. You know what I mean? Instant camera, cool, Instax. But you don't get the same… It's not your same craft, you know, when you're using your lens and your thing and you're able to show it, as small as it may be, I don't know, peoples' smiles so much that like, “Wow.” I'm like, right.
[01:08:15] Svenja: Yeah, no, that's true. And, and that's how you change the narrative, you know. It's like, little by little, just start having one good example, just making the extra effort, the Instax. And then, yeah, slowly start these people… seeing them being empowered, you know. And then eventually starting their own, their own things, you know. It's like there is so much potential in, yeah, in empowering others through the resources we, we, we are privileged to, to have and, and see them tell their own stories. I think that is like what makes me always so, like, excited if I, if I see a young photographer from, yeah, from a place where you wouldn't necessarily, yeah, think they have access to many opportunities. But like, once they get these opportunities, seeing how they see, like, how they capture their own stories is like one of the most beautiful things, I think. And that's where I think we just need to move out of the way, remove ourselves from those stories, and have them tell it and give them the platform to tell it and the opportunities. And, yeah, that's what I want to see more.
[01:09:26] Pierre: That's beautiful. I want to, I want to pin down the arts of seeing and how people see and learning to see. I want to keep that for our second conversation, because if you're interested, I would love to do a round two. There's a lot more we can dig into. I'd love to link for people the post you had about ethical thinking when you're doing photos. And I thought that was very interesting. Obviously, that's a lot of question to ask yourselves. And it's… you don't have to be ticking all the boxes. It was a lot about like how do you approach it, how do you interact with people, what you do before, after, and like what is your intention? And I thought it was very thoughtful because one of the biggest powers with photography or even video is actually showing people a different point of view of themselves.
[01:10:10] Svenja: Yeah.
[01:10:11] Pierre: And if you're able to show them something… the beauty you see in them, that's awesome.
[01:10:16] Svenja: Yeah.
[01:10:16] Pierre: Because a lot of people don't see the beauty in themselves anyway. That's right.
[01:10:21] Svenja: Yeah, that's a whole different conversation, right (laughs)?
[01:10:26] Pierre: It's like everyone tells me… every time someone tells me, “No, I don't look good for photos, blah, blah, blah,” I'm like, “Wait, what? No, let's do something here.” Because it's, it's not about how you look. It's like everyone is beautiful in their own way. How, how do you show them what you find beautiful in them, you know?
[01:10:45] Svenja: Yeah, yeah, very true. Same with a story. You know, every story is so beautiful in its own way. No one has your journey, your twists and turns, your challenges and your, you know, other like bad things that happened. But eventually, they might become, you know, your, your biggest work. And I think there is so much wonder in that, that, yeah, we could talk about it for days (laughs).
[01:11:11] Pierre: Absolutely. Okay, let me ask you like two short questions. And, and we'll, we'll slowly be mindful with our time. Okay, first one is going to be… it's a little bit funny. What is one of… well, I think we have the answer, but I was going to ask you, what is one of the, I would say, not too expensive accessory that you've added in your life lately that has a huge impact?
[01:11:37] Svenja: Definitely, the printer. And I am forever grateful for, for my friend who was thoughtful enough to give the right printer to me.
[01:11:45] Pierre: What printer, what printer do you use, by the way?
[01:11:47] Svenja: I have a Canon IVY one, yeah, because I'm also like shooting on Canon and stuff, so, yeah. But I, I, I don't have that much experience, yet, that I could comment on the quality versus others and, stuff. But, um, yeah, whatever was…
[01:12:02] Pierre: The quality is, is great for what it is (laughs).
[01:12:05] Svenja: There you go. You probably know more.
[01:12:06] Pierre: I, I have the same. I have the same.
[01:12:08] Svenja: If there is someone out there who can dedicate themselves to developing a beautiful printer, we would appreciate you. I would totally buy it from you (laughs).
[01:12:18] Pierre: Exactly. And it has to be small, very small (laughs).
[01:12:22] Svenja: Very small, very cute, and fast.
[01:12:23] Pierre: And can print very big (laughs).
[01:12:25] Svenja: That's so funny. I love that.
[01:12:27] Pierre: It has to be able to print bigger than this… the printer itself.
[01:12:31] Svenja: Yeah.
[01:12:32] Pierre: Make it a small printer that can print big pages. That's awesome. And how do you see… let's say, what's your view… That, that will be one of the last one. How do you see storytelling in this changing medium that we have through social media? Because, as you know, Instagram is changing. It's going through reels. It's going… TikTok is going through reels. TikTok is getting into 10-minute videos. I don't know who the heck will watch. YouTube's struggling to… or like it's pushing shorts. Where do you see us going? And where do you want to go for yourself, even for your art as a storyteller?
[01:13:15] Svenja: Very good question. I, I do have to say I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I love all the good things that come from it, and connections to other people, and yeah, having a platform to, to share about your art and be inspired by other people's arts. Yet, I, I have never been a fan of like trends or anything or like doing something because it's popular or for like the sake of it, or… But I also have to admit that it's not like my main like profit income, as in… It probably couldn't be because I just can't get my head around the fact that you potentially adjust what you create to whatever is popular in the moment or whatever gets more likes, or all of that. So, like I really struggle with this. And like… because I do believe that, you know, if you just, if you just… consistently, you just share who you are and your conviction behind your work, and you, you stick to that, then the people that are meant to see it would see it. Then, the opportunities that are meant to find you would find you. And you don't even need to strive for it or change anything about yourself for it. And so, I really… I'm not the best person to ask when it comes to this because I like… it's probably like a very unpopular opinion in that sense that I like… But then, again, like times are changing. And you know, we need to go with the times. But then I do appreciate now the rise of Twitter, which I'm planning to use more in the future. Like, I've been overwhelmed by having like more than one at a time platforms to, to share our work. But it feels like there is such a genuine and generous reception around art and people celebrating each other and kind of what Instagram used to be like or was known for. So, probably, a new platform is going to come. Everyone is going to, you know, move again. But, I guess, the most important thing is that your art has depth. And that's not going to go away, like with changing trends or changing platforms. And that's what you should focus on or like spend your time investing into, to, to go deeper and deeper and deeper. And that's always connected to how much do you know yourselves, or how much have you, you know, like owned your story, in that sense, and like dig deep into what is it that I have to offer, that I can offer, with the intention to, to help others and to inspire others? I always say your story is a, is a gift to the world. You just need to give it, as in, you know, like we… like we've been given our story. And… but it's unto us to, to give it to someone. But what's on the other side can be so powerful, going back to the painter, you know. It can literally be life-changing. And, and I think that is what matters most to me and not the, you know, words here and there. And yeah, sure, use words to, to share your art. I don't know. It's hard for me to, to navigate that (laughs).
[01:16:40] Pierre: I think it's hard for everyone to navigate.
[01:16:43] Svenja: Yeah.
[01:16:44] Pierre: But you hit the nail on the head where… when you say it's your story to share with the world. And like, like you mentioned, you have to, to share it no matter what and, and believe that people who needs to see it see it. And I will add to that, that whether it's in a 15-second video or a 25-minute video or, or a film that you have to play on the, on the machine in, in your basement, it's just the medium changes, right? The, the narrative behind it is, still yours to… Sometimes, you just got to adapt to the medium, you know.
[01:17:22] Svenja: Yeah, yeah. And if you don't want to, that's also fine.
[01:17:26] Pierre: Exactly.
[01:17:27] Svenja: As in like there is no… Like, I think we shouldn't feel pressured, in that sense as in I just hope that this doesn't affect their art and like creating out of a genuine overflow of, “This is, yeah, this is what I have to offer,” and not be influenced by, by other people's perceptions and what they think. Like, if that is… if you can keep that throughout changing mediums, changing formats, then, I think that is what matters most, yeah.
[01:17:57] Pierre: That's awesome. Thank you so much, Svenja. Where can people find you? Where should they find you?
[01:18:03] Svenja: So, I am on Instagram, Stories Matter.
[01:18:05] Pierre: Okay.
[01:18:06] Svenja: And I do have a website that I need to update, like we all (laughs).
[01:18:13] Pierre: We all have… I literally have a second website that's been awaiting to be, of course (laughs).
[01:18:17] Svenja: Yeah. And because life happens, you know, and there's so much life to be lived, so, I really want to put my… this series I'm doing now, where tomorrow is like its one-year anniversary. I want to put that on my website, too. But I'm working on that. But, yeah, storiesmatter.de is my website. And then, hopefully, one day, maybe this is going to become a book, or who knows? And then you can actually have a physical copy in your hands, you know, because I do love that. And I hope it's never going to go away.
[01:18:50] Pierre: Yes. So, @storiesmatter on Instagram, if you want to read more. And all the links will be in the description and on the show notes. So, you guys can check it out. Svenja, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for sharing that piece of your word with us. And hopefully, to more conversations.
[01:19:10] Svenja: Thank you so much for listening and for asking me such amazing questions. I appreciate you.
[01:19:17] Pierre: Thank you.